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Custom Kitchen Islands: Materials, Details and Shapes that Function Well and Look Great

Updated on July 13, 2013

Build or Remodel Your Custom Kitchen Island

You don't have to settle for a boring standard kitchen island, even if you're using stock cabinets in your kitchen - custom kitchen islands are for everyone! There are dozens of ways to customize and personalize your new island so that it really stands out and becomes a focal point.

Custom kitchen islands vary from the totally custom-made and custom-finished island to match your custom cabinets, to a much cheaper island made out of standard size countertops and cabinets put together in unusual ways to give a custom look. If you're planning an island in your kitchen, don't assume that it has to match the perimeter cabinets in cabinet finish, countertop material, or height: you can use the island to give your kitchen a distinctive custom look.

Read on to learn about the many ways to create a custom kitchen island which fits you, your kitchen, and your lifestyle, then visit the Custom Kitchen Islands page at for lots more tips for creating a custom kitchen island, plus potential gotchas and difficulties to avoid as you plan.

Photo credits: IKEA Model Kitchen photos by kevinw1.

Kitchen island picture from Morguefile - used under license
Kitchen island picture from Morguefile - used under license

Materials for Creating Your Custom Island

Use wall and/or base cabinets to create a base for your kitchen island. Then you can customize it in some of these ways:


  • Customize the sides and ends of the base: add panels or doors to match your cabinets, cover them with wallpaper or fabric (varnished for protection), panel them with decorative materials like beadboard or tile or even use a translucent material and light it from the inside.
  • Use several counter-top materials: possibly a butcher-block prep area with a soapstone slab for pastry
  • Change cabinet colors on the base to contrast with your perimeter cabinets: antique-look vs modern, painted vs stained, dark vs light
  • Use a two-tone color scheme on the island cabinets: light and dark wood panels, distressed or antiqued paint finishes
  • Keep the same style for island and perimeter cabinets, but use a different color or finish to distinguish them

Multi level kitchen island
Multi level kitchen island

Details to Decorate your Custom Island

  • Add legs to the ends, or to support an eating counter. Look at old tables for proportions and sizes: some island legs I've seen in magazines are way oversized and clunky-looking to me.
  • Light your island with several decorative pendant lights: mini-chandeliers, industrial lighting, art glass shades, whatever you enjoy. For most flexibility, make them dimmable.
  • Include appliance drawers: freezer, dishwasher, fridge, even a warming drawer for plates and finished dishes.
  • Use small gaps between your base cabinets for bottle storage, narrow pullout racks for spices, display niches, cutting board or baking sheet storage, pull-out towel storage, cookbook shelves etc.
  • Tuck a small movable island in or under a larger fixed island for flexibility
  • Install an unusual sink which would not be practical as your main sink: perhaps an odd shape like a trough or less-used material like copper
  • A unique or showy faucet can be a great island feature too

Kitchen Design books

All these books have great ideas for kitchen islands, both traditional and contemporary.

Is your kitchen island customized?

What kind of kitchen island do you have?

See results

Unusual Shapes for Custom Islands

  • Modify levels on different sections of the island, up to bar level or down to table level
  • Make the island a unique shape. Why should everything be rectangular? Try angles and curves: prototype the shape with boxes to get the feel of how it looks and how it works.

Kitchen Islands: Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Do you like an island in a kitchen?

Why not tell us about them!

Do you have a kitchen island? - Is it customized with special details?

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    • KateHonebrink profile image


      5 years ago

      Love all these kitchen island ideas - can't wait to go to all your links!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      one of the creative lenses I read so far. love the way you put everything in details.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great kitchen ideas.

    • Heatherseesthel profile image


      6 years ago

      What a creative lens--thanks for all the great tips (Especially about lighting! Dimmable is a great idea for intimate wine and cheese dinners.) Keep up the good work, Kevinw1

    • christabel2 profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      great kitchen ideas.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This give me some idea on how to remodel my old kitchen and probably put some new appliance there, too.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      We did a major kitchen remodel several years ago, and didn't add an island. I sure wish we had, though.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I planned to get one a few years ago but my plan fell apart... I still like them very much and hope some day to be able to have one.


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